Cattle Annie and Little Britches
Cattle Annie and Little Britches have been mostly forgotten in the annals of western history, but not in the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. There, they were two of the most famous female outlaws ever to strap on a six gun.
They were a cattle thieving couple from the Indian Nation of Oklahoma who only flourished for a couple of years before being caught. Maybe it is because little is known about what happened to them later in life. But during their heyday they were known to be closely associated with the infamous Wild Bunch.
The Wild Bunch, also known as the Doolin–Dalton Gang was a gang of outlaws based in the Indian and Oklahoma Territory during the 1890’s. They robbed banks and stores, held up trains and killed lawmen. They were also known as The Oklahoma Long Riders from the long dusters they wore. No outlaw gang of the Old West ever met a more violent end than the Wild Bunch. All eleven would die in violent gun-battles with lawmen.
In those days lawmen were often foiled in their attempts to corral the gang because people such as our two female outlaws would warn the gang members when they were in the area.
The Wild Bunch
Around Pawnee and Perry, Oklahoma, Cattle Annie and Little Britches were also wanted for selling liquor to the Indians and horse theft. The two attractive teens were both excellent shots with a pistol or rifle.
Cattle Annie was born Anna McDoulet in 1879 to James C. and Rebekah McDoulet of Lawrence County, Kansas. She had an older brother, Calvin and an older sister, Martha. And at the time she was imprisoned her siblings also included Claude, Maud, Everett, George, James, and John.
At the age of four Anna’s family moved south to Coyville, Kansas. Some say her father was a lawyer turned preacher while others claim he was poor and uneducated. Young Annie went to work as a dishwasher in a hotel to help with family expenses. She also worked as a domestic and did other chores whenever the opportunity presented itself. When she was twelve, the family moved to the Cherokee Nation. There she studied at a Mission School and worked nights in a restaurant. Later, the family moved to the Otoe Reservation near Skiatook, north of Tulsa. It was here that her outlaw days were to begin.
Little Britches was born Jennie Stevens in 1879 to Daniel and Lucy Stevenson of Barton County, Missouri. She had only one known sister, Victoria Estella. Her early years were spent in Missouri. The family made a living as honest and respectable farmers. About 1887, they moved west to Seneca on the Missouri border, later moving further west into the Creek Nation at Sinnett in Pawnee County.
Jennie was an impressionable young girl of fifteen and enamored with stories of the notorious Doolin Gang. The attraction was so strong she dressed in men's clothing and ran off hoping to join the gang. However, on her first night she lost her horse. The gang dropped her off at a neighbor’s house and subsequently returned home where she received a sound thrashing from her enraged father. Humiliated by taunts from her friends, she ran away to hook up with a deaf-mute horse dealer named Benjamin Midkiff, whom she married. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in a hotel in Perry. Shortly thereafter her husband discovered she was entertaining men in his absence. Midkiff promptly returned her to her home.
By the time she was sixteen, Jennie was reported to have married again to a Robert Stephens. However, this marriage was also short lived as she left after six months. Not long after she acquired her name as the infamous "Little Britches" and was on her way to an outlaw career.
It was about this time she and Cattle Annie met at a country dance and formed a fast friendship.
At one such dance, the pair met members of the Doolin Gang. Annie had gone to the dance with a boyfriend, and he introduced her to George "Red Buck" Waightman. When Annie discovered Waightman was a member of Doolin's notorious Wild Bunch, she immediately fell in love. Both girls then took up with the gang.
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The girls listened intently to the exciting tales the gang members told. Several months after their association with the Wild Bunch, they began operating on their own. One newspaper account reported: "not only did they dare to wear men's pants in the sanctimonious but scarlet nineties, but rode horses as men rode them, astride, and with heavy forty-fives swinging at their hips."
Both girls seemed to thrive being on the wrong side of the law. Throughout 1895, they made headlines from Guthrie to Coffeyville, an area encompassing a lot of territory. The couple sold whiskey to Osage and Pawnee Indians and also stole horses. They worked together, alone or sometimes with others.
The cagey couple often confused the law by working by day and committing their dastardly deeds at night. Once a posse met Cattle Annie on the trail and asked if she had seen any strange men about .As soon as she was able she immediately sent a message to the Doolin Gang informing them of their presence in the area. The gang disappeared.
In August 1895, Jennie was arrested. The Sheriff, Frank Lake, took her under guard to a restaurant in Pawnee for supper. But when Jennie finished her meal, she sprang out the back door, stole a horse and vanished into the night. The newspapers had a field day. It seems Jennie had escaped on deputy marshal Frank M. Cantons’ horse.
The following night, the girls were tracked down near Pawnee by Marshals Bill Tilghman and Steve Burke. Both girls gave fight, and several shots rang out, as the girls made their way to a back window to escape. Cattle Annie was caught by Burke, as she climbed out the window but Little Britches escaped, temporarily. The lawmen gave chase amidst several shots fired over her shoulder at them, but her shots missed. Finally Tilghman shot her horse, which ended the chase. Although fighting like a wild cat Jennie was finally subdued and both girls were jailed.
Annie and Jennie were charged with stealing horses and selling whiskey to the Indians. Annie received a one year sentence in the Framingham reformatory for women in Massachusetts, but was paroled a few months later, due to poor health. She remained in Framingham until she found work as a domestic for Mrs. Mary Daniels in Sherborn, just south of Framingham. A few months later, she went to New York, where some stories claim she died of consumption in Bellevue Hospital. But what actually became of her is not certain. Other stories claim Annie returned to Oklahoma and married Earl Frost of Perry in 1901, had two children, and divorced Frost in 1909. The museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma claims she married again to a J. W. Roach of Oklahoma City and died in 1978. Another popular legend has her returning to Oklahoma, marrying twice before marrying Jack Dalton and living in Purcell as Anna Ohme Burke Dalton.
Jennie was held for two months in the Guthrie jail as a material witness for a murder trial. She had witnessed a shooting while working as a domestic. Her two-year penal sentence began in Framingham reformatory in Massachusetts on 11 November 1895. However, she was released on 7 October 1896 for good behavior and returned to her parents in Sinnett.
There were rumors she married, settled down, and raised a family in Tulsa. But what really became of her may forever remain a mystery.
Chris Neal from Fishers, IN on May 05, 2012:
Very interesting! The Old West is definitely a rich source of material! Thank you so much!
Definitely voted UP!
William Thomas from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! on December 28, 2011:
This was a nice change of pace, JY3502, hearing about a couple of cagey female gunslingers and horse thieves. Loved it! Voted up for awesome and interesting!
Take it easy.
John Young (author) from Florence, South Carolina on April 18, 2011:
Eiddwen, I appreciate your comments. I am, after all a trained writer with years of experience.
Eiddwen from Wales on April 18, 2011:
Another brilliant hub. You tell them so well and I am gripped until the very last word.
John Young (author) from Florence, South Carolina on April 17, 2011:
It makes for a good mystery, but I know how it ends...they died. LOL
Ginn Navarre on April 17, 2011:
JY, you might say the did it their way and I like endings that leaves it to our imaginations don't you?